Cognitive determinants of reaction to uncontrollable events: Development of reactance and learned helplessness

Andrew Baum, Robert J. Gatchel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Examined links between crowding, loss of control, and helplessness in university dormitory settings. Dormitories were selected in which the number of residents sharing common areas was varied. Past research has shown that when designs clustered residents around shared areas in smaller numbers (short-corridor design), residents reported less social withdrawal and stress relative to those designs in which residents were grouped in larger numbers (long-corridor design). 64 freshmen residents of long-corridor and short-corridor designs were studied. Assessment was made of an array of behaviors at regular intervals throughout their 1st 10 wks of residence. Results show that attributions to personal factors were closely associated with an initial reactance phase of response to loss of control in long-corridor Ss. Subsequently, attributions of loss of control to environmental conditions were associated with behavior indicative of helplessness. Implications for the study of cognitive and environmental mediation of reactance and helplessness phenomena, and their possible adaptive value, are discussed. (21 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1078-1089
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 1981


  • crowding &
  • helplessness, university dormitory residents
  • loss of control &


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